How To Disassemble a Pallet, The Easy Way! (And Other Tips & Tricks)

Today I thought I would share my tips on how to disassemble a pallet, the easy way! (And other tips & tricks)

How To Disassemble a Pallet, The Easy Way! (And Other Tips & Tricks)

The pallet craze is pretty awesome in my opinion… I mean it’s free & pre-aged wood! My husband and I probably had about 20 of them in our garage over the past few months. I kid not.

How To Disassemble a Pallet, The Easy Way! (And Other Tips & Tricks)

I’m not an expert on all things building, but I wanted to share a few tips and pointers that we’ve learned from our many pallet projects.

1. Where to Find Free Pallets.

Almost every store uses them, so drive around & snoop out dumpster areas especially. We got most of ours from a pool supply company. You can find them on the sides of the road too. Sometimes people even put listings up on Craigslist because they have a bunch they need to get rid of.

BUT always ask before taking. Business, after all, use them for work; so don’t just assume they are free for the taking. Most the time they will say yes if you ask nicely.

How To Disassemble a Pallet, The Easy Way! (And Other Tips & Tricks)

2. How to tell if you are using SAFE Pallets.

Most pallets are stamped to show if they have been Heat Treated (HT), or Treated Chemically with Methyl Bromide (MB)

The board pictured above was treated with heat, which makes it safe to use. Avoid pallets treated with MB.

When in Doubt: if a pallet is unmarked, looks really old, grimy, dark, or oily, then I would suggest staying away from it. Even if it was treated safely, you don’t know what may have spilled on it, or if it was used for something chemical.

I was so desperate for pallets at first, that we took home a super grimy one from a mechanic’s shop. And then we found some beautiful, clean ones. Needless to say, we got rid of the “questionably black-ish” pallet from the mechanics soon after. Not worth it.

Also, consider WHAT you are using the pallets for. I would suggest staying away from using them for food surfaces.

Lastly, some pallets are really roughly milled. And to me, that’s what gives them their rustic beauty. But if you are using them for something that will have cloth or skin contact, like a table or dresser, it’s a really good idea to sand them down to avoid splinters.

How To Disassemble a Pallet, The Easy Way! (And Other Tips & Tricks)

3. How we “quickly” disassemble our pallets.

While there is no “right” way to disassemble a pallet, we’ve taken apart several for our DIY projects, and have thus come up with a fairly quick method for turning our pallets into boards.

How To Disassemble a Pallet, The Easy Way! (And Other Tips & Tricks)

First, using our skil saw, we (or should I say Silas) cut the outer boards off of the baseboard. This makes your boards a few inches shorter, but in the long run, when you do this on both outer edges of the pallet, you are saving yourself 50 extra nails to yank out with your hammer. It’s worth the lost inches folks!

Next, to get the nails out of the middles of the pallet boards, we reverse hammer the boards, making the nails and top board pop off the base. You can use a piece of wood in-between the board and hammer to avoid extra dents in the wood.

How To Disassemble a Pallet, The Easy Way! (And Other Tips & Tricks)

Once the board is off the pallet base, hammer the back of the nails out. If they don’t pop out automatically, use the back of the hammer to yank out the nail.

It’s quite a workout, and I’m not as good at this as Silas, so doing two pallets is enough to make me really tired and super sweaty. But it is so worth it in the end!

I think pallet companies should start using screws to make my life easier!!! Haha!

4. How to Use:

Right now I am in the middle of 3-4 pallet projects, because I love them that much!

The possibilities are pretty much endless! We’ve used them to re-surface several dressers in our home, frame artwork, build crates, build nightstands, and make pallet artwork.

How To Disassemble a Pallet, The Easy Way! (And Other Tips & Tricks)

Here’s a full link list of my personal pallet projects, as shown in the collage above:

DIY Deer Head with Pallet Plaque | DIY Fox Head with Pallet Plaque | DIY Dresser Update using Pallets | How to Age New Wood to Look Like Pallets | Prairie Tree Artwork Frame & Free Print | DIY Pallet Crate | Pallet Joy Sign

Builder Basic Turned Farmhouse - House Tour

How to make a Faux Fireplace out of Pallets.

How To Disassemble a Pallet, The Easy Way! (And Other Tips & Tricks)

My all time favorite pallet project is my DIY Barn Door, which only cost under $20 to make (hardware included)

How To Disassemble a Pallet, The Easy Way! (And Other Tips & Tricks)

Just look at that rustic wood goodness!

DIY Jigsaw Pallet Letter Marquee

Coming Soon: I can’t wait to show you my latest Pallet Project, this adorable Letter J Marquee Light!

To stay updated on both my pallet projects, and all the pallet tutorials I think are really awesome, follow my Pinterest board EVERYTHING PALLETS.

Feel free to leave any questions you have in the comments & I will do my best to answer them!

What are you waiting for? Get building!

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  1. Thanks so much for sharing all your knowledge from years of pallet hoarding! I've been dying to do some projects with pallets lately, and I always love how yours turn out. I guess I'm going to be running around town hunting for them this weekend!

  2. Thank you for this post! I would really like to start using pallets but didn't know where to start! Thanks!

  3. Thank you for the ideas! I would like to rebuild our privacy fence using pallets. I have seen projects for 4' fences but not 6'. Do you have any suggestions?

  4. Hannah, what excellent ideas that you came up with disassembling pallets. It seems like I'll have to find some new pallets to create a table. Ever since a friend of mine showed me how he built a table made out of pallets it gave me an idea about doing the same thing.

  5. Unknown says:

    One method I have seen used to disasemble a wood pallet used a heavy-duty(HAS to be heavy duty or extra thick)tractor or truck tire inner tube that had been cut and then sealed at both endsby folding and using metal straps with bolts. The valve was left intact.

    They just shoved the tube between the top and bottom slats and positioned it close to one of the side 2x4s with the valve poking up between the cross slats. They then proceeeded to full the tube until it had managed to mostly extract the boards(and nails) from the 2×4. this generally only works for either the top or bottom side, but after wards one can pound on the wood next to the 2×4 to complete the job.

    The only down side was that sometimes the boards would not pull the nails out and instead just rip past the nail heads. But – this did leave the nail head exposed for pulling with a small crowbar(which is easier than using a claw hammer.

  6. Unknown says:

    Tout simplement bravo !

  7. mkrebek says:

    Even easier to just use a skill saw and cut through the nails with the proper blade…

  8. Anonymous says:

    I like to take apart my pallets with a saws-all. I cut the nails into and leave the heads in the wood for the effects.

  9. Mills says:

    Thank you for sharing your great ideas with wooden pallets. I do want to know if you ever built a small deck or/ removable stairs for above ground pool. I need directions of some sort to follow. Thank you.

  10. Jim says:

    I use a saws all and cut through the nails. Easier that way.

  11. Terri says:

    Do you know of a site you can download for writing on sign? I need to make some for my daughters wedding and my free hand is horrible!????

  12. l Rugs says:

    Thanks for sharing such a handy post. I was thinking of up-cycling pallets for some wall art and I stumbled upon your post at the perfect time. Loved your projects.

  13. Janice says:

    Where did you go for free pallets?

  14. Dennis Leney says:

    Interesting article, my partner and I have been recycling wood pallets for three plus years. I get wood pellets delivered every fall (44 tons) which results into 44 pallets.We started off with a headboard and it has gone onto several [projects that keep us busy all year with custom signs, tables benches and more. I use all of the pallets i use an old axe head and a mallets to slightly open each side of the pallet then using my reciprocating sam and a GOOD nail cutting blade cut all of the nails, I then used a custom bar to pull up the center boards a pallet takes less that five minutes to disassemble.We love to leave the nails in the for effect. All of the stringers (2X4’s) are used to make eight foot sections of fencing which are a very easy sell.

  15. Larry says:

    This was a big help to me. I am going to be making a “rustic” bird house/ feeder. I am going to plane down one side to get the thickness correct. The roof is made from flattened tin cans.

  16. Patty niten says:

    Hello there, you can buy a tool for taking the pallets apart and it’s pretty easy to do. Just search tool for taking pallet boards apart. I think it’s around $ 40.00 .

  17. Danny says:

    I just use a 6 to 8 foot 2×4 an use it as a lever. Put in the space between the slats next to the runners an use your weight to pry the slats loose. Easy as any way I have found. There are 3 different pallet manufacturing companys within 15miles of my house. They will buy the runners from me for 2$ for any 50 inches or longer that are in good shape. Pays for my gas and puts alittle change in my pocket. I then use the slats for all my many projects. I have even paneled 2 of my walls in house and built a huge screen porch using the slats. I can get between a 100 and 200 a week from the many industrys here.

  18. Helen says:

    VBS is very soon and we need to build a ship for the outside of our church. Well, a half ship as the other half will be inside the church which doesn’t need to be weather worthy. Shipwrecked is the theme. Any ideas on how to begin?

  19. Carla says:

    Hello I appreciate you telling us how to take them apart because they are kind of difficult to take apart but I do like your idea thank you. And please if you have any more ideas you can send them to my email that I left below, thanks again.

  20. Phil hebert says:

    I built a pallet bar wanted to send picture but dont see how

  21. Terry Barnes says:

    I have always cut mine down like that hey you can’t use that little bit anyway. If you’re going to do this a lot there’s a special pry bar just for pallets. Saves the back.

  22. Sue says:

    Nice jobs. Do you ever paint your pallets and use as a walkway? Are termites a concern with the heat treated pallets? Any and all comments are very much appreciated.

  23. Beth Smith says:

    We are pallet hoarders too! My son is always bringing them home from all about town, I’ve shown him your post about which pallets to collect because he’s brought home some really gross old ones in the past and also chemical treated ones which we didn’t realize were no good!

    Had never thought of cutting off the ends like you’ve done but we will do in the future because pulling all those nails out can be a real pain… great tips thank you

  24. Don Gates says:

    I’ve got a few pallets coming and wasn’t looking forward to driving all those nails out. Never thought about just sawing the ends off, as you say I’ll lose a few inches but there’ll still be more than enough wood left for my project.

  25. Russ Driedger says:

    I’ve been breaking down pallets for a couple of years because I get them for free so…
    I highly recommend getting a pallet buster and a device called an “Airlocker”.
    The pallet buster will easliy take the boards off and the airlocker actually pushes the nails back out the other side. All you need is an air compressor.

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